beyond tellerand 2024: recap day 1


A good-vibes factory of a conference, part 1 of 3.

Waving flags with the beyond tellerrand logo on them on a blue sky in the background.

This year’s beyond tellerrand edition in Düsseldorf took place from 13th and 14th of May 2024. As always, it was a blast. Inspiring, inclusive, welcoming: the conference is like a good-vibes factory, truly. Here is part 1 of my personal recap of the conference, featuring all talks from day 1.

The talks of day 1

“Say Something!” by Chris Campe

On her website Chris Campe, a designer based in Hamburg, describes her medium simply like this: “language and its visual form”.

Chris Campe on stage. A slide is showcasing a typographic logo saying “Explore”. The letter “r” is shaped like a human walking to the right direction.
Chris Campe on stage, featuring one of her many pieces of typographic work.

The main theme of the talk was her journey of becoming a “protest sign influencer”: her protest signs against fascists have garnered widespread attention and she showcased her offerings of workshops and guides on impactful sign creation. She explores the power of her growing Instagram following as a tool for promoting issues dear to her heart.

Her contributions to protest sign culture even found a place in the collective memory of Germany by being incorporated in the Haus der Geschichte. This was pretty impressive to me: something you do in the real world and that you are passionate about, can have a lasting impact in people and society and can, at least sometimes, even be recognized as actual historic artifacts of your country.

Favorite quote:

I want to take up space.

Formerly hesitant to express her queerness in her work, Chris now proudly embraces it, attracting commissions exactly because of her authentic identity.

Chris Campe on stage. The slide shows her in the process of painting a wall in an office room that says things like “Wait, I have an IDEA!” or “What if…?”. It’s a room where creative thinking is encouraged.
Chris also designs spaces in offices, like this wall of a room where ideation, brainstorming and creative thinking is encouraged.

Reflecting on her journey, she underscores the importance of representation, noting the impact it would have had on her early career. In her creative process, she experiments with letterforms, e.g. periodically painting the alphabet on her studio’s window pane, always trying to bend the forms and feelings of the letters to new unchartered territory (the shadows of the painted letters inside of the studio add a nice extra dimension to the whole enterprise).

All in all an inspiring mixture of topics and a great start of the conference.

“Looks GREAT To Me: Getting Past Bare Minimum Code Reviews” by Adrienne Tacke

This talk delved into the topic of giving and receiving code reviews. Definitely one of the most hands-on talks of the conference.

Adrienne emphasizes the importance of clarity and specificity in feedback during code reviews. She shared insights from various studies, highlighting the impact of toxic vs. non-toxic comments in pull requests (PRs). A more structured and guided approach to comments can be the use of conventional comments. This is something I saw already being used by colleagues and I will try to use this more often in my day-to-day work.

Adrienne Tacke on stage. The slide highlights the toxic vs. non-toxic nature of PR comments by showcasing words that triggered the feeling of one or the other and the quantity of appearance of the word in the respective comments.
A study showcasing what specific words in PR comments made them being perceived as toxic or non-toxic.

Authors of PRs should always take on the role of their own first reviewer and to utilize automation tools before finally submitting a PR to someone else. I found her emphasis on crafting PRs that tell a story to be particularly insightful: it made me realize the importance of guiding reviewers through the changes made and the rationale behind them. Always treat a PR as a documentation artifact: In a few months time you want to get back to an incorporated bugfix or feature and want to quickly understand why this was being made in the first place. Another important point is to detach yourself from your code, understanding that critiques are not personal attacks.

Adrienne Tacke on stage. The slide shows a list of what a PR author should be doing: Be your own first reviewer. Let the robots take over during development! Make PRs manageable. Solve the myster; let your PRs tell the story. Remind yourself: you are NOT your code.
Best of of what we should do as authors of PRs.

As I mentioned, a super useful and hands-on talk, greatly delivered. Every developer on the planet should watch this.

“Typographer vs. Accessibility” by Oliver Schöndorfer

Oliver Schöndorfer, a typography expert and freelance UI & app designer from Austria, delivered a fun session. He puts a unique energy and enthusiasm to the stage. I’m actually not sure how else to describe it. It was the first time I saw the conference DJ Tobi Lessnow being incorporated into a talk. Oliver encouraged him to drop a beat and he actually dropped a few rap lines of accessibility goodness. 🤓

He challenged common misconceptions about accessibility, confronting his own preconceived notions as a designer and type nerd. His talk struck a perfect balance between myth-busting and practical advice, offering plenty of insights and quick wins for creating accessible typography on the web.

One thing I particularly appreciated about Oliver’s approach was how he made the often overwhelming topic of accessibility so accessible itself. His fresh stance on WCAG and his ability to break down dry concepts into digestible nuggets of information was quite entertaining.

Oliver Schöndorfer on stage. Slide featuring characteristics of 3 differents fonts: Arial, Inclusive Sans, PT Serif. Arial being the font where some characters are way to similar in from and shape.
Remember: Always use Arial. Not.

Throughout the talk, Oliver emphasized the importance of legibility and readability, highlighting why certain typefaces, like Arial, may not be the best choice despite their availability. He also delved into the world of dyslexic fonts, shedding light on their potential drawbacks (!) for certain audiences.

“The Gentle Art of Design Feedback” by David de Léon

David’s talk focused on the often overlooked yet invaluable tool of design feedback. He highlighted how good feedback can transform a piece of design and emphasized the practical and psychological barriers that hinder effective feedback processes.

Instead of bombarding the audience with slides, David engaged us, the audience, directly by handing out cards with specific topics for feedback. It was a refreshing change, prompting some audience members to consider aspects like engagement, clarity, and core message: far more insightful than the generic “How was it?” question we often use when asking others for feedback.

His stage presence was quite remarkable, I had a few sparking moments of goosebumps. He challenged us to see feedback not as criticism but as a gift, a neutral exchange of information crucial for growth.

David de Léon on stage. Slide featuring the 7 key points of the talk: Feedback is a gift. It’s just information. Become a curious collector of information. Everyone doesn’t have to like it, or like you. It’s rarely about you anyway. Feedback is inevitable – don’t be surprised to get it. Sometimes it’s going to sting – we’re only human.
The 7 key points of his talk.

One key takeaway for me was David’s emphasis on being a collector of feedback, viewing it as an opportunity to learn not just about our work but also about ourselves. It was a reminder to embrace feedback with an open mind, both giving and receiving it graciously.

The talk was a masterclass in turning what could be an uncomfortable process into a valuable tool for improvement and growth.

In the end he shared this heartwarming video showing kids giving valuable design feedback without hurting the critizied. A must watch!

“The Expanding Dark Forest and Generative AI” by Maggie Appleton

This was a dense yet profoundly impactful talk (here are slides and transcript of it). Maggie painted a stark picture of the web’s evolution into an eerily lifeless place, akin to a dark forest where living creatures quietly hide out of sight. With generative AI systems on the rise, the situation is poised to worsen, flooding the web with mundane, low-quality content. As she delved into her insights, I found myself nodding along with her observations about people’s gradual retreat from the open web to more private, human spaces, driven by a desire for genuine connection amidst a sea of bad actors and automated predators.

Maggie Appleton on stage. Slide saying “Dark forest theory of the web: Feels lifeless, automated, and devoid of humans. Ads, trackers, clickbait, and predatory behaviours make us retreat away from its public spaces.”
Yes, some dystopian vibes were present.

One notable aspect was her exploration of the implications of AI’s increasing influence on online content creation. She highlighted alarming developments such as Amazon’s imposition of limits on self-published books (it’s now at 3 books…a day) and the emergence of forgot-to-remove AI prompts in scientific papers (yes, officially released scientific papers). Her predictions for the future painted a somewhat dystopian picture, yet offered glimmers of hope, such as the potential resurgence of offline interactions in response to the degradation of truth and humanity in the digital realm.

Maggie Appleton on stage. Slide show a diagram of an AI agent consisting of “chain of thought, self critique, and observer & plan” together with a long term memory database.
Advanced AI agents.

She contrasted the capabilities of AI with those of real humans, emphasizing that AI can only replicate a fraction of what it means to be a sentient being embedded in the real world. Despite the dystopian undertones, her insights left me feeling inspired to reflect on the future of the web and the importance of preserving authentic human connections in an increasingly automated landscape.

“Now is Better” by Stefan Sagmeister

Stefan’s talk challenges the narratives of doom and gloom perpetuated by social media and news outlets. With a long-term perspective, he presents visualizations that showcase the world’s progress over time. Drawing from personal anecdotes (he talked about how many children his great-grandparents have lost during their lifetime) and historical data, Stefan highlights remarkable improvements in areas like child mortality rates and democratic participation, defying conventional pessimism.

Stefan Sagmeister on stage. Slide featuring a painting with a data visualization put into it.
Paintings that spark discussions.

The main topic of the talk was about his innovative use of art to convey statistical insights: He cuts and repurposes centuries-old paintings with data visualizations, meant to provoke discussions. His projects, from transforming hospital corridors into vibrant art pieces to creating espresso tableware adorned with data visualizations, exemplified his commitment to merging design with social commentary.

Stefan Sagmeister on stage. Slide featuring a re-painted hospital corridor floor, specifically for children: lion, panda, and other animals.
Hospital corridor floors don’t need to be ugly.

Our perception of the world is heavily influenced by the time frame we consider. While daily news may paint a grim picture, zooming out to longer time scales reveals a narrative of progress and improvement. It was a powerful reminder to consume media mindfully and seek out sources of positivity and inspiration.


This was my recap of day 1 of the conference. The recap of day 2 will follow soon.

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